La Liga Preview: Real look to capitalise on Messi absence

Updated: March 2, 2012

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Barcelona will be without talisman Lionel Messi as Sporting Gijon travel to the Nou Camp on Saturday, while Real Madrid play Espanyol on Sunday at the Bernabeu.

Messi is suspended for Gijon’s trip to Barcelona but Pep Guardiola’s men are still heavy favourites to beat the 19th place team in the league, after last week’s win over Atletico Madrid.

A late ingenious Messi free-kick fooled the Atletico goalkeeper and beat Diego Simeone’s side for the first time since the former player took charge in the New Year.

Simeone’s Atletico Madrid will need to bounce back and show their character as they face a trip to Sevilla on Saturday to try and forget their first defeat in the league since December.

Sevilla will be full of confidence after beating Valencia 2-1 away from home and a win against Atletico will see them climb the league table even further.

Malaga got back to winning ways last week with an easy win over whipping boys Real Zaragoza but Getafe will surely put up a sterner test at home on in the early kick off on Saturday.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Rayo Vallecano host Racing Santander while Osasuna travel to Mallorca.

Real Madrid will look to step closer to the league title on Sunday with a win over Espanyol after last week’s admission from Pep Guardiola that it is unlikely Barcelona will catch Jose Mourinho’s team, who have a 10 point lead over the reigning champions.

Madrid haven’t dropped any points in the league since their defeat at the hands of Barcelona in December and Espanyol’s chances don’t look good as the visitors have not won since January, picking up just two points from their last four games.

Villarreal have the chance to put some space between themselves and the relegation zone as they travel to Zaragoza to take on the lowest place team in the league.

A recent run of good results by the Yellow Submarine was halted by a 4-0 defeat to Mallorca two weeks ago, but Villarreal responded positively with a 2-2 draw at home to Athletic Bilbao.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Valencia will travel to Granada while Athletic Bilbao host Real Sociedad.

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